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Foundation's grant to MSU to fund free health/fitness program

MSU logoblue crossSTARKVILLE — With a second-year grant from the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, Mississippi State University is providing a free comprehensive health and fitness program for the entire campus community and beyond.

The program also will measure and monitor participants’ progress as part of a pre- and post-program assessment.

The $250,000 award from the Jackson-based foundation is enabling the university’s kinesiology department to establish the Health Fitness and Wellness campaign, an extension of the existing “MSU on the Move” program.

Professor Ben R. Abadie, the principal investigator, said all MSU faculty, staff and students, as well as local residents, are invited to participate. Areas of emphasis include fitness, nutrition, stress management, behavioral change strategies and smoking cessation. The program will enhance ongoing health and wellness efforts the university already has in place.

“This is something we’ve always wanted to do at Mississippi State,” Abadie said. “The program consists of a series of educational classes related to the core topics and are designed to give participants the skills to modify their lifestyle habits and improve their overall health.”

In addition to the educational component, participants will be provided an opportunity to participate in exercise classes such as aerobics, yoga, spinning and strength training. These classes are currently scheduled in the Sanderson Recreational Center. In addition to the Sanderson Center, on-campus exercise venues include the Chadwick Lake walking track and Mississippi State Golf Course. Participants also may exercise on their own with walking and related activities.

For the evaluated members, the program’s effectiveness will be measured in pre- and post-assessments of physical fitness and blood analyses. Abadie also said dietary analyses based on self-reporting and lifestyle habits also will be measured. MSU faculty and staff are eligible to be evaluated to measure their results. While non-evaluated and community participants may exercise at any venue, efforts currently are underway to offer more local exercise classes, Abadie said.

The Needmore Center located at 610 E. Gillespie Street in Starkville will be the site for free Monday and Wednesday evening classes starting Sept. 29. Aerobics will be offered from 6-6:30 p.m.; yoga from 6:30-7 p.m.; and strength training from 6-7 p.m.

“The classes are free to all individuals 18 and older,” Abadie said, noting that individuals interested in participating in yoga should bring their own mat.

As an incentive for faculty and staff to volunteer for the evaluated-members group, the grant provides reimbursement for a portion of the Sanderson Center’s early-bird membership and golf course’s walking membership fees. Additional benefits for evaluated members will include one-on-one sessions with a nutritionist, a fitness instructor and health psychologist to develop individualized guidelines and strategies.

“We are hoping to change people’s attitude toward exercise, improve nutritional choices and help individuals coping with stress, which will allow people to begin living a healthier life,” Abadie said.

Roksana Zak, the grant’s program coordinator, said educational opportunities are already offered at Sanderson. Informational sessions in mornings and evenings are available throughout the year. Topics include behavioral change strategies, health benefits of fitness training, aerobic exercise prescription and steps to record a three-day dietary recall, among others.

Zak said the program approaches health and wellness from the “whole person” perspective. In addition to the new emphasis on fitness, the program is emphasizing nutrition and psychological-social factors that contribute to overall health and wellness.

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